Navy Chief Admiral RK Dhowan on Wednesday warned of increasing threat of maritime terrorism and described the recent attack by militants to hijack a Pakistani frigate in Karachi as a “very very serious situation”.
Pakistani militants had made an unsuccessful attempt to hijack ‘PNS Zulfiqar’ in Karachi in September this year and reports had said the plan of the militants was to use the hijacked ship to attack an American or an Indian vessel.
Asked if the navy takes into account the possibility that there might be a jihadi group on board when it encounters a Pakistani ship following the attack on INS Zulfiqar, Dhowan said, “We are taking that aspect into account.”
Dhowan referred to the changed threat scenario in the wake of the militant attempt and said that if the Indian Army finds an another army charging at its post, it will be cause of “great alarm” because the land border would have been violated.
Similarly, if an IAF aircraft has another warplane from a different air force very close to its tail, it will be a cause of “very great alarm because our air space would been violated”, he said.
“But, out at the sea, when officers on watch report to the captain that we have a warship from another navy…. The captain would tell the officer to wish him good morning because he is international waters and so are you.
“Well, in this changed environment, we have to rethink. We may not wish him good morning and actually carry out a surveillance and figure out who he is,” the Navy Chief said, addressing the annual press conference here on the eve of Navy Day.
Dhowan said that the navy had inputs about certain aspects of terrorism in maritime domain which are increasing. “These are taken into account in our security apparatus,” he said.
Dhowan said the navy has taken into account the Pakistan Navy frigate incident “as far as our matrix is concerned for our defence purpose as well as for our surveillance and security”.
Noting that maritime security challenges have actually increased manifold, he referred to piracy and said that the world now has floating armies and armed guards on board merchant vessels.
“We have inputs of various terrorist organisations which are out on sea,” he said, adding that one needs to understand the complexities of maritime security.
Maintaining that there are about 2.5 lakh Indian fishing boats out at sea on any given day, he said, “Any of them could carry a couple of guns, explosives and land in a remote part of any one of our islands.” India has 1,197 islands and a coastline 7,650-km long.
“How easy it is from the other side and how difficult from our side to try and get these secure… So, it is a huge problem and the complexities must be understood. Any of these vessels can be escorted by a terrorist organisation,” he said.
“And, hence, the threat in the maritime domain from terrorists, from the aspect of asymmetrical warfare, non-state actors or whatever you want to call them, is a huge problem,” he said.
The Navy Chief said there has to be a constant endeavour to utilise all available means — intelligence agencies, technology, UAVs and fast-patrol boats, among others, to thwart terrorist designs.
He said that although it is a huge problem, a lot of progress has taken place since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, including in achieving synergy among various agencies.